A report released last month by the Reason Foundation ranks Washington as the state with the 42nd best highway performance out of the 50 U.S. states. Just three years ago, the state ranked 24th among other states. Washington received poor marks because “mileage in poor condition (on urban and rural Interstates and rural arterials) increased considerably, despite increased spending (relative to the U.S. average).”
After years of debate on whether the ports of Seattle and Tacoma should merge, port officials announced today they have formed a single Seaport Alliance. According to the Seattle Post Intelligencer, “The Seaport Alliance will manage marine cargo terminal investments plus marketing, planning and operations, while existing government structures, taxing authority and ownership of assets remain in place.”
After months of doubt, threats and controversy, bus riders and taxpayers finally have some good news: the King County Councilmembers unanimously voted to stop the bus service cuts they had planned for 2015. County officials now say they will limit their cut to a total of 151,000 hours of bus service, instead of the 600,000 bus hours they threatened earlier this year, citing windfall sales tax revenues and better management practices at Metro.
Members of Metro Transit’s Amalgamated Transit Union Local 587 voted to turn down a fair contract that would have provided them with a 2% pay raise over three years, The Seattle Times reports today.
The contract offer would have provided a fair pay raise, while allowing King County leaders to preserve more bus service for the public without raising regressive taxes. Still, 66% of union members rejected the offer, saying it was not generous enough.
The news keeps getting better at King County Metro Transit. Metro officials are the beneficiaries of record-breaking sales tax revenues, and are seeing large tax windfalls that were unthinkable just two years ago. Back then, Metro executives assumed their sales tax revenues would grow at a meager pace, and they planned to impose harsh bus cuts in many communities unless they raised taxes. However, a rebounding economy and swelling coffers should allow officials to keep bus service on the road without regressive tax increases.
Many ferry passengers have known for some time that the ferry system in our state is broken. Some state leaders have continuously fought to reform the troubled agency to restore the public trust, only to be met with fierce resistance from powerful labor unions and well-compensated upper management.
New information from Island Transit shows a series of poor financial decisions made by local managers are the source of the district’s trouble, not lack of state money. Island Transit provides bus service and vanpools throughout Whidbey and Camano Islands, with routes connecting Skagit and Snohomish Counties. The agency is fully subsidized by taxpayers and doesn’t collect fares from passengers. Earlier this year, Island Transit officials announced plans to cut the Camano Island to Everett bus route, citing a lack of state tax money as the primary reason.
Seattle voters will have their say in November on another tax plan to “save” Metro bus service. Last week, the Seattle City Council voted to send the tax-increase plan to the November ballot with the following text:
The Seattle Transportation Benefit District’s Proposition 1 concerns funding for Metro Transit service.
Earlier this week, the King County Council unanimously passed an ordinance to preserve 96% of Metro bus service by only adopting a 161,000-hour service cut on September 27th. Metro provides about 3.5 million hours of bus service to King County. King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski said the following about the adopted cuts (emphasis mine):
Starting tonight, three westbound lanes of Interstate 90 across Lake Washington will be closed for bridge construction. Despite pleas from the public, state officials are pressing forward with their plan to impose fully-priced tolls on those hit hardest by the road closure. The Washington State Transportation Commission (WSTC), the agency responsible for tolling in the region, said they cannot exempt the public from paying tolls on SR-520 during the I-90 construction project, because it needs the $1.3 million in revenue to pay back debt.
Starting tomorrow night, three westbound lanes of Interstate 90 across Lake Washington will be closed for a week due to bridge repairs. The construction could lead to crippling congestion for cars and buses across and around the lake. The unusual shut down has irritated many in the public, who look to state officials to reduce or eliminate the tolls on SR-520 to ease some of the frustration. The Washington State Transportation Commission, responsible for tolling in the region, responded:
Last week, the Seattle City Council reversed course and repealed its earlier decision to artificially cap the number of rideshare drivers in the city. Today, the City Council cleared the next hurdle by legalizing rideshares by an eight to one council vote. The decision, based on an agreement spearheaded by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, gives consumers more choices in how they travel around Seattle’s congested streets.
The Seattle Times Editorial Board says Congress needs to act to fix the soon-to-be-broke Highway Trust Fund, but they say raising the federal 18.4 cents-per-gallon gas tax is not the way to do it. Lately, Congress has been spending money out of the Highway Trust Fund faster than gas tax money comes in to support it. The solution, Times editors say, needs to come quickly because Congress only has about 30 days to solve the problem.
Bob Pishue is director of WPC’s Coles Center for Transportation. Prior to joining Washington Policy Center in 2013, Bob interned at the Washington Research Council where he produced policy briefs on initiatives and referenda. His last role was the IT and HR Manager for a Bellevue-based retailer. A Washington resident throughout his life, Bob grew up in Everett and graduated from Central Washington University with a bachelor’s degree in economics. Bob serves on his church’s annual audit committee and is also an avid golfer. He lives in Kirkland.